Teen Substance Abuse Counselor Job Information

Learn about the work a teen substance abuse counselor performs. Discover what degrees and training are required, and check the salary and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definition for a Teen Substance Abuse Counselor

Teens with eating disorders or addictions to alcohol, drugs, or gambling often work with a teen substance abuse counselor. The counselor helps them understand and break the addictive cycle and avoid relapses. Counselors also work with families and friends of addicted teens and conduct programs to help unaddicted teens recognize and avoid substance abuse.

Required Education In many states, a master's degree, supervised clinical experience and licensure
Job Duties Work with teens with eating disorders and addictions, help them understand and break addictive cycles
Median Salary (2015)* $39,980 (all substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 22% growth (all substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Many states require a master's degree, 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience and passage of an examination in counseling in order to license teen substance abuse counselors. These graduates are qualified for a wider variety of jobs in government agencies, health care, or private practice. Some states offer licenses for jobs subject to greater clinical supervision in substance abuse counseling and therapy to high school graduates who have completed one year of training and 250 hours of clinical fieldwork. Check with your state or independent licensing boards to find a program that suits your career goals.

Skills Required

A teen substance abuse counselor should have considerable stamina and energy, a desire to help people and the ability to inspire the confidence and trust of teens. Counselors are held to strong ethical standards and must continue to advance their understanding of substance abuse counseling and therapy with continuing education coursework.

Economic Outlook and Career Growth

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned a median salary of $39,980 in 2015, and job prospects are likely to grow much faster than average - at 22% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov. Teen substance abuse counselors who work with students may find their work hours changing seasonally with the school year.

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Alternative Careers

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Social Worker

For those who want to also assist in finding resources for those with substance abuse and other personal issues, becoming a social worker should be considered. Social workers assess the needs of individuals of all ages and work with them to find effective solutions and services from federal, state and local programs. These professionals may also provide mental health counseling and intervene in emergencies such as instances of abuse. A bachelor's degree in social work could open up job opportunities in direct-service positions, but a master's degree is required for clinical social workers who provide mental health counseling.

Licensing and certification of different types of social workers vary by state, but all clinical social workers must be licensed, with limited exceptions. The BLS projected that employment of all social workers will grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024. They also determined the median yearly compensation of substance abuse and mental health social workers was $42,170, based on 2015 estimates.


If offering more mental health treatment and finding the reasons behind someone's substance abuse behavior sounds interesting, a career in psychology may be the right fit. Psychologists use scientific research and theories to help clients recognize destructive behaviors and patterns. They also study brain function and identify disorders, in addition to developing treatment plans and facilitating counseling sessions. To practice psychology, a doctorate degree in the field is required, and all states require independently practicing psychologists to obtain licensure.

However, industrial-organizational psychologists and some school psychologists may only need a master's degree to gain employment. As seen in 2015 statistics from the BLS, counseling, clinical and school psychologists received a median annual wage of $70,580 and should experience employment growth of 20% during the 2014-2024 decade.

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